Cattle cruelty case: What makes a cow go wild?

cow Image copyright AP
Image caption Cows can become unsettled if their daily routine is disrupted, experts said

Farmer James Stratton has been sentenced after admitting neglecting his herd of cows. The court was told the herd had gone "wild" and became "dangerous" due to their neglect. But what makes a cow go wild?

They are considered docile animals that rarely stray from the herd but if mistreated cattle can become aggressive.

Experts say it is important for farmers to interact with calves from an early age to maximise their "docility".

Richard Saunders, development manager at the British Limousin Cattle Society, said a mild temperament was a desirable trait in domestic cattle - and not just for reasons of safety.

"Human contact is important right from birth; it gets the cows used to being herded and having people around them, looking after them and administering to their needs," he said.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Cows "like to stick together", Mr Saunders said

"You want nice, quiet cattle; they are easier to manage... when they are happy.

"They are creatures of habit and routine."

Professor Phil Garnsworthy, from the University of Nottingham's School of Biosciences, said it would take "extreme" treatment for a cow to become aggressive.

"It certainly wouldn't happen on a normal farm, farmers look after their animals and want them to be quiet," he said.

"Docility has been bred into them for 4,000 years, so it's in their nature.

"Research has shown that even when you take away human contact they tend to become flighty and run away rather than aggressive."

'Go hungry'

Stratton, 49, who farmed at Churton Heath Farm, was jailed on Friday for 12 months after admitting the animal cruelty charges.

Landlord John Davis-Colley, who leased the land to Stratton said the cows did not appear to have been properly reared.

"They were almost like wild animals; they'd hardly had any human contact," he said.

Image caption The judge told Stratton he was a "disgrace to farming"

"The farmer who took them in said he was too afraid to go into the barn with them.

"When I first saw them they were quiet as a result of being starved but once they'd been fed and recouped their strength it was different."

Of 37 animals that survived after Stratton's farm was raided, 36 had to be destroyed.

Phillipa Spackman, spokeswoman for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), said cases of farmers neglecting their animals were "extremely rare".

"In most cases farmers will put the interests of their livestock above their own interests.

"This can happen to the extent where they will ensure their livestock is fed to the point that they themselves will go hungry."

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